There were a few threads regarding lighting rheostats in X-Plane 9. Here’s a short version of the issue and why we’re not changing X-Plane 9’s behavior.
X-Plane 9’s policy toward lighting rheostats is a little bit arbitrary. The sim will pre-position every lighting rheostat in the cockpit to 75% intensity on sim startup, and from that point on, we never touch them. We do not reset them when you load a new plane or reset your flight.
The result of this is that when you load a new airplane, it “inherits” the rheostat positions of the last airplane loaded. This can cause a problem if the newly loaded plane doesn’t have controls to adjust the lights (e.g. it has no instruments on the 2-d panel or manipulators on the 3-d panel, and there is no keyboard shortcut defined). A plane can be “stuck dark”.
It would be nice if X-Plane would pre-initialize the lighting rheostats on startup, but X-Plane deos not have enough information to do this. For example, on plane load, the instrument brightness should be set fairly high (so a glass cockpit can be read during the day) but the flood lights should be fairly low (to prevent loss of night vision). But X-Plane has no idea which rheostats control instruments and which control floods. So if we wanted to correctly initialize the cockpit, we wouldn’t have enough information.
To make it more complicated, some airplane authors have taken it upon themselves to initialize the cockpit via plugin code. If X-Plane were to start changing the rheostats at startup, it might undo some of what these plugins have done.
Given the difficulty of maintaining compatibility and the lack of a “correct” set of values, we decided not to change the behavior in 9.50 or 9.55.
If there’s any take-away point for airplane authors, I think it is this: provide controls for the lighting rheostats that you use in your airplane. Otherwise the user can’t turn the lights on if they are off for any reason. You can control the lighting rheostats with a generic instrument, manipulator, or the built-in instruments.
There is a separate issue that sometimes comes up: X-Plane panels can look bad when the flood lights are turned all the way up during the day. A panel can look very red and washed out, for example.
This problem comes from a mismatch of real-world lighting levels. In the real world, the sun is approximately four gajillion times more powerful than the little dome lights in an airplane. So when the sun is out, the dome light isn’t visible even if it’s turned all the way up. The dome light only looks bright when your eyes have adjusted to a no-sun condition.
What X-Plane should do (and may do in the future) is scale all cockpit lights relative to the overall daytime brightness, which would effectively dim the effect of flood lights during the day. Simply turning down flood lights when a flight is started during the day is not a full solution, as the user can simply turn them right back up again and end up with an unrealistic scene.
Suffice it to say, I think we will address these things in a v10 time frame, not a v9 time frame; in the short term it’s better to have airplanes continue to function as the author intended.
In order to understand the difference between hiding geometry and disabling drawing, you need to understand that an OBJ triangle can serve many purposes. Broadly, those purposes are:
- Drawing (the most basic use).
- Collision detection, of which we have three flavors: collision of the plane with the object (“hard surfaces”, or “physics”), collision of the mouse with the panel (manipulators, or clickable triangles) and collisions of the camera with the airplane (“solid camera”, which constrains the camera).
Any given triangle can be drawn and/or used to check for any of these collisions*; attributes change what the triangle is used for.
By default, all triangles are drawn; ATTR_draw_disable marks future triangles as not being drawn. This allows you to make a triangle that is used only for collisions. Examples might include a “hot spot” in front of a region on the panel (the hot spot might be easier to click than a small switch) and an invisible simple mesh to constrain the camera.
By comparison, ANIM_hide effectively removes some triangles from your model (temporarily) for all uses – drawing and collision detection of any kind. If a door is hidden, it’s not only not drawn, but it’s not going to stop the camera moving through it either.
Some key points to these distinctions:
- Categorizing what a triangle is used for (drawing, various flavors of collisions) is static – that is, it is always the same for the object and never changes with datarefs or animation. This is intentional for performance reasons!
- Animation to hide triangles affects the triangle in every way consistently – drawing and collisions.
Generally, you will get better performance improvements by removing categories from a triangle than by hiding it. (That is, it is better to not have manipulators on your cockpit, so it isn’t mouse-click collision-checked, than to hide it.) But the purpose of ATTR_draw_disable and ANIM_hide are different enough that which you use will be determined by the effect you are trying to create.
Finally, note that hiding an object completely (that is, the object does no drawing) does not provide the maximum performance benefit of not having an object at all. ANIM_hide was created to allow authors to create clever effects, not as a performance enhancer!
* This is not quite accurate: airplane-object collision checks are only available in scenery objects, and camera/airplane or mouse/panel collision checks are only available in the cockpit object.
I was discussing plugin-controlled prop discs with a third party developer. The developer wanted to know if custom prop disc control would end up inside Plane-Maker. It may end up doing so, but I don’t think this would be nearly as useful as it would seem. What follows is my explanation to him of why this is.
Let me draw an analogy: when it comes to systems modeling, using a plugin is to Plane-Maker as using Blender is to using Plane-Maker.
Users who cannot use Blender are frustrated because they cannot make something as nice as those who are building planes out of OBJs. Sometimes they ask for more features in Plane-Maker, like: more stations! This new editing mode! Make the UI better!
But…you tell me: will Plane-Maker’s UI ever be as flexible and powerful as Blender? And if it ever did get to be that good, would that have turned out to be a good use of LR’s time, when Blender is already available?
The motivation for OBJ-based airplane geometry via third party tools is that what users want to do cannot be easily generalized into a few simple cases. Every plane is different, so a truly flexible platform is needed.
The prop disc (and other systems modeling problems) are the same way. In developing the prop disc graphics, I spoke with a number of third party developers who had already tried to push prop discs as far as they could go, were using plugins, were drawing themselves, as well as 25 other crazy hacks. I also spoke to our internal art team. And what I found was: no one had any consensus on how the prop disc system should work. Everyone wanted to tune a very specific set of behaviors to their peculiar art assets.
That’s what drove me to put it into a plugin. When we need an equation or a strategy we reach the point where we need more flexibility than Plane-Maker can exhibit. A plugin can encapsulate a strategy or technique in a way that Plane-Maker radio buttons cannot.
Consider what would happen if custom prop disc parameters were built into Plane-Maker. Everyone would have to wait until Austin implemented the prop disc algorithm they wanted. How would this be bad? Let me count the ways?
- How many algorithms do you think Austin has time to code? Not more than he has fingers on his right hand. Only the five lucky third party developers who get their algorithm coded will be happy with this.
- Austin code exactly what you want? Don’t get your hopes up.
- , what you asked for wasn’t what you wanted? We can’t change the behavior now, that would break compatibility!
- oh…your email got eaten by a spam filter? Too bad…no custom prop disc for you!
- Sorry, we don’t have a release vehicle lined up for the next 3 months. You’ll have to wait.
This problem is already happening across pretty much every aspect of systems modeling: airplane have unique, quirky systems which are usually useful for exactly one plane. It is not even remotely sustainable for X-Plane to code these things one at a time with a set of check-boxes. We might as well have a pop-up menu for every airplane ever invented, and simulate every single airplane inside the sim itself. Imagine the development costs…if a single high quality MSFS add-on sells for $30-$50…
Think of the prop disc via plugins situation (and the strobe lights are the same way) as an experiment in generic instruments for systems. By transitioning to a generic abstaction for instruments we’ve let a lot more users do exactly what they want with a small, high performance piece of code. The original instrument strategy (one of everything) reached a point where we simply couldn’t meet user needs in a cost-effective manner.
In X-Plane there are two fundamental ways that a texture can be painted “over” a background image:
- Blending, whereby the alpha channel of the new top layer decides how much we see the top layer vs. the background.
- Additive Lighting, whereby the new texture makes the background lighter.
Blending is more common. For example, if you build an OBJ, the object appears “in front of” the terrain via blending. With blending, you put the color of your new layer in the RGB channels and use the alpha channel to indicate opacity. 1.0 alpha = 100% opaque, 0.0 alpha = 0% opaque, and alpha in between will create a blend. If you omit an alpha channel, X-Plane will treat the entire layer as 100% opaque.
When a layer is applied using additive lighting, the resulting color is the sum of the background plus the new color, clamped to the maximum brightness we can show on screen. Additive lighting is good for simulating effects that really “add light”. Some examples of additive lighting in X-Plane:
- All lighting billboards are drawn additively.
- Instrument overlays are additive if you pick the appropriate mode in Plane-Maker. (The option is labeled “glass” for generics, since most glass instruments work by adding light to a nearly black screen.)
- The emissive (_lit) texture of an object is added to the albedo (daytime) texture using additive lighting.
Now just a little bit of math. In RGB color terms, black = 0,0,0 and white = 1,1,1. So if we add a pure black texture to a background additively we get:
new_r = old_r + overlay = old_r + 0 = old_r
new_g = old_g + overlay = old_g + 0 = old_g
new_b = old_b + overlay = old_b + 0 = old_b
In other words,when using additive light, adding “black” does nothing, preserving the background.
And this brings me to my main point: any time you have additive lighting you don’t need an alpha channel. You can simply make your additive lighting texture black for the parts you want to be “transparent”.
This is why I generally recommend that emissive _LIT textures for objects not have an alpha channel. In fact, for “back-lit” and “additive” instruments (these are instruments that use a second emissive _LIT texture) Plane-Maker will indicate a warning if the texture has an alpha channel. If you have a texture that is applied additively, you don’t need alpha.
At this point you might be wondering: Ben, if additive lighting doesn’t require alpha, and all lighting billboards are drawn additively, why the heck is there an alpha channel for custom lights?
The short answer is: there probably doesn’t need to be one; the original setup for lighting billboards inherited a number of idioms from older versions of X-Plane, going back to versions where lighting billboards were not additive* (and thus alpha was necessary).
The long answer is: the alpha channel is often as a general “intensity” control to turn the light up and down in amplitude, while the RGB channels are often re-interpreted in strange ways. So while RGBA color is not necessary from a graphics standpoint, it is handy that there are four color channels in the custom lights because that gives us one more parameter to play with when designing really compicated lights (like VASIs).
* Note that lighting billboards that aren’t additive don’t look very good…hence Austin switched to additive billboards.
In the past I have suggested that there is a limit to the value of additional VRAM when buying a graphics card. When I posted this, Nicholas from the org emailed me to point out that with third party add-ons VRAM was a lot more important.
At the time I wasn’t really convinced, but I’ve finally come around; it takes a while for the trend to get back to me. (I just don’t have time to look at everyone’s add-ons the way I used to 4 or 5 years ago.) It seems clear that airplane authors (and to some extent scenery authors) are using VRAM pretty aggressively. If you want to use third party add-ons and you care about texture res and texture sharpness, spring for some VRAM. It doesn’t cost as much as it used to, and authors are starting to use it.
What Lives in VRAM
Bear in mind that in any discussion of how your video card operates, anything I post is informed speculation. The driver provides an abstraction (OpenGL) of what the hardware does, and a lot of the bookkeeping isn’t visible to X-Plane at all. So what I am describing is typical of past video drivers that we have had insight to in the past, but it’s not universal, and it’s not at all guaranteed. (X-plane can’t demand any of this behavior of the video driver.)
In order of how “stuck” in VRAM things are we have:
- Video memory used for on-screen rendering. Depending on rendering settings you can lose anywhere from 12 to 24 MB of VRAM per million pixels on screen. So if you’re running at 1920 x 1200, you might be using 50 MB of VRAM just for the screen. If you use FSAA, you’re going to chew up VRAM even more aggressively. (Costs vary depending on the scheme; you might lose 4-16 MB x the FSAA level per million pixels on screen, depending on your GPU and driver.)
- Off-screen rendering for things like the water reflections, the panels, the cloud shadows, the airplane shadow, etc. These don’t have to be in VRAM all of the time, but they have to be in VRAM almost all of the time. Because they are created by the GPU, the driver tries hard not to move these out of VRAM. You might lose 6 to 16 MB of VRAM for these, depending on the airplane you use and settings. (Given 4 1024×1024 panel regions, the panel will chew up 32 MB!)
- Textures end up in VRAM, but only when they are used. The key here is “working set“. Only texures that are drawn need to be in VRAM, so over time stuff that isn’t on screen will be removed from VRAM. This is why when you see “600 MB of texture memory” in the rendering settings, there is no need to panic. The working set is usually much smaller.
- OBJ geometry actually lives in VRAM too, sometimes. Again this is a working set issue; objects that aren’t drawn don’t get cached there.
- Textures from airplanes and scenery packages that are not loaded don’t ever end up VRAM or even system memory; we only load what we need. Paged orthophotos have their resolution reduced while you fly, which makes their VRAM footprint quite small, even when drawn.
There are a few things authors and users are doing now that use up a lot of VRAM.
Monitors have gotten bigger; the VRAM used for the screen itself can never be swapped out, so the advent of the 1920×1200 LCD has taken its toll.
Since the panel texture is drawn off-screen, the panel texture is in an expensive category of VRAM use. Authors can limit the cost of this by using a single 1024×1024 panel region texture, if possible.
There is a hidden cost here: we pack together instrument textures into “atlases” to help with performance. The problem is that we pack for fit. Some of your instruments may be hidden but loaded into VRAM anyway because they sit in the same atlas texture as other instruments that are drawn. Thus you may be paying for the VRAM used by your entire panel even if a lot of it is hidden.
Because a lot of this VRAM is going to airplanes, reducing texture resolution doesn’t have as much impact as it used to; X-Plane tries to keep the user’s plane’s resolution as high as possible since it is viewed up close. The panel cannot have its resolution reduced at all.
But It Works Sometimes
I think what drives users crazy about VRAM exhaustion is that X-Plane will sometimes run smoothly, and then fail later. And sometimes really strange things, like moving X-Plane to the background, then the foreground, or changing liveries or rendering settings in a trivial way, will change performance.
I have discussed this a bit in past posts. But the key here is “working set”:
- In any one frame, we can access everything that is permanently in VRAM, plus as much data as we can put through the PCIe bus from the CPU to the GPU.
- We only need to access data in the working set (what is on screen).
- Some of VRAM is permanently used (e.g. memory for the screen itself).
- We lose PCIe bandwidth to both drawing from main memory (terrain is in your system memory and must go over the PCIe bus per frame) and from bandwidth spent juggling textures.
So the actual maximum throughput will have a lot to do with whether the video driver makes good decision about what lives in VRAM and what does not.
But how does the video card know what should be in VRAM? The answer is that it has to guess. It looks at frames going by and tries to use heuristics (that is computer-science geek speak for “carefully formulated wild guesses”) to decide what goes in VRAM and what does not. When the heuristics happen to make good decision, your video card kicks ass. And when it does not, your framerate tanks.
The only way to guarantee good framerate is to use so little VRAM that everything that needs to be in VRAM can be in VRAM, without depending on the video driver to make lucky guesses with its juggling.
And this helps us understand why strange things like livery reloads and backgrounding the sim can affect framerate (for better or worse). These operations seriously reshuffle VRAM – either by deleting textures and loading new ones, or by forcing everything out of VRAM so the video driver must try to repack video RAM all over again.
Unfortunately as a user this means that there’s not much you can do about this as a user. The main things would be: reduce screen size or FSAA or texture resolution, use fewer add-ons, or get more VRAM. Those peak bursts of framerate you see, they’re not going to be sustainable .
Sometimes I get reports of a slow airplane, and I do a quick audit for performance problems. The trick to spotting performance problems is to divide and conquer: turn off various aspects of the airplane to see which aspect is really causing performance problems, then optimize that aspect.
Here are some of the specific tricks I do:
Change views; the panel will be drawn differently in the 2-d view, 3-d cockpit view, external view (when close or far – zoom out and the panel won’t be updated) vs. 2-d no HUD.
If the 2-d view is slow but forward-no-HUD is not, your panel is expensive. If the 3-d view is slow but 2-d is not, one of your panels may be more expensive than the other (copy them in Plane-Maker from one to the other to see) or it could be that the preparation of the cockpit texture is slow.
Remove 3-d objects from your plane to test the cost of OBJs. Turn down X-Plane’s texture res or shrink your textures to see if texture memory is at issue. (Some airplane textures are not affected by the texture res settings, so you may have to manually shrink them.)
Be sure to play with X-Plane’s rendering settings; the GPU-specific options don’t always cost “the same”. For example, per pixel lighting is more expensive when there is more translucency on screen. If your airplane has a lot of overlapping surfaces or translucency this otherwise manageable setting might become too slow.
If you use panel regions, try switching to regular ATTR_cockpit. Panel regions provide superior lighting effects but can take more CPU time when you have a lot of instruments.
The key is to divide the many possible causes of performance problems to isolate one thing that can be optimized.
In my previous post I tried to break an OBJ down into a few basic sections:
- Global properties of the OBJ.
- Raw Mesh Data
- Commands, which in turn set per-batch state and then draw the batches.
The performance cost of an OBJ feature often has a lot to do with where in the OBJ the command shows up, e.g. is it global or per batch.
Global properties tend to affect OBJ performance on a one-time basis. For example, if you use cockpit regions, you pay a fairly large penalty for having the panel texture be set up even if you only apply that panel texture to a single texture. Sure enough, COCKPIT_REGION is in the global properties section of an OBJ.
Per-batch properties affect the OBJ in two ways:
- Every command you see in the commands section is going to involve some CPU intervention. A very long commands section is more work for an OBJ.
- Every time there are attributes between TRIS commands, it defines a new “batch” – that is, a separate instruction to the graphics card to draw a new and distinct setup. Think of this as shutting down the factory to reconfigure the assembly line.
Generally batch count is more important than total commands. In other words, in evaluating this:
TRIS 0 300
ATTR_light_level 0 1 some_dataref
TRIS 300 12
the fact that there are two attributes is less interesting than the fact that there are two batches (the two TRIS commands run with different state). Even if you got rid of the no-blend attribute, you’d still have two batches because of the light-level change.
The most powerful aspect of the OBJ format is bulk data handling – that is, you have to add a huge number of triangles before the number of triangles becomes a performance problem.
For this reason, you should never use an attribute to reduce geometry count. A few examples:
- Don’t use ATTR_no_cull to reduce triangle count – simply issue the indices of the triangle twice.
- Don’t use ATTR_flat_shade to reduce vertex count – simply use more vertices with correct per-vertex normals to simulate flat shading.
- Prefer texturing to materials whenever possible.
Finally a note on weighting: for airplanes, where the total number of objects is low (a few dozen) global object properties often matter most. For example, on an airplane, choosing to use huge panel regions, or huge textures can make a big difference in performance. By comparison, batches aren’t that expensive unless you do something really crazy.
By comparison, for scenery, batches matter more; X-Plane will share the global properties of objects across hundreds or thousands of objects, but each batch hurts framerate. So when making autogen-style scenery, batches are most important.
A number of people are working on an update to Jonathan’s Blender X-Plane export scripts; this post is aimed at shedding some light on some of the recent changes to the OBJ format. X-Plane 9 introduced a number of new OBJ features (manipulators, invisible geometry and camera collisions, dataref-driven control of emissive texturing, normal maps, and a number of new light billboard options). If you simply read the new OBJ commands in the order they were added to the format, it’s just a soup of funny names. But there is some logic to how the OBJ format is extended.
The World’s Simplest OBJ
Here is a very simple OBJ file, broken up by my annotations. First we have the header and global section:
POINT_COUNTS 24 0 0 36
the global section describes properties universal to the entire OBJ. For example, what textures will be used to draw the object?
We picked up a few new global properties in the version 9 run:
- Normal maps are declared globally for the entire OBJ.
- The metrics of any panel regions to be used are declared globally.
We may pick up new global attributes in the future; if we do, they will be properties that apply to the entire obj.
Next comes the data section:
VT 0.449997 0.300003 0.860001 1.000000 0.000000 0.000000 0.000000 0.000000
VT 0.449997 0.300003 0.000000 1.000000 0.000000 0.000000 0.000000 1.000000
VT 0.449997 -0.509995 0.860001 1.000000 0.000000 0.000000 1.000000 0.000000
IDX10 0 1 2 3 2 1 4 5 6 7
I have removed a lot of the data section, because there’s not much to be said about it. The data section contains the raw data for the meshes in your OBJ, and it hasn’t changed since the OBJ 8 format was introduced.
The third and final section is the most interesting one: the commands section.
ATTR_LOD 0 3000
TRIS 0 36
The commands section describes how the data is used in the form of serial instructions to X-Plane. Most changes to the OBJ format have come in the form of new commands. We can categorize our commands into a few buckets:
- Drawing commands create “stuff”. There aren’t very many drawing commands, and new ones don’t appear very frequently. TRIS and LINES are the main commands, but the smoke commands also fall into this category, as do the light billboard commands. The new light billboard command LIGHT_PARAM is the only new drawing command for version 9, and it probably warrants its own blog post.
- Attribute commands change how stuff is drawn – they effectively define properties for drawing on all triangles that can be modified. We picked up a number of new attributes: manipulators (controlling how the mouse works), light level control, solid camera, draw disabling, deck style hard surfaces, and panel regions. (While you must declare the panel region locations globally, a panel region is enabled for a specific batch.)
- ATTR_LOD is sort of an exception, because it defines the structure of the model (e.g. a model with LOD really contains several separate command lists, of which only one is used).
Most new extensions to the OBJ format come in the form of new attributes. Attributes generally apply to a specific mesh within your model, not to the entire model.
Note that attributes can be thought of as “per mesh” or “per batch” properties, because they affect only the batches of mesh (TRIS commands) between the attribute being turned on and turned back off again.
Where Will New Features Appear?
I try to post some of my crazier ideas regarding OBJ on the scenery system RFCs page. Looking at the extensions, we can see how these extensions will all be either global, drawing primitive, attribute, or OBJ structure extensions. (I am not promising that any of these RFCs will be implemented, just showing how the OBJ format grows.)
- Additive LOD. This is a change to the structure of an OBJ, but it doesn’t actually change the format, just the legal LOD values.
- Explicit OBJ Height. This is a global property on the OBJ.
- Global Texture Variants would be a global property on the OBJ’s textures.
- Global Object Attributes are new global properties – they move some per-batch attributes to be object-wide.
- Draped Object Geometry would be per batch.
In summary, the vast majority of proposed extensions are new per batch or per object properties.
Next: what are the implications on performance of the various sections of an OBJ?
Meshes in X-Plane, whether modeled in an OBJ, or generated as the results of other “3-d clutter” (road .net files, .for forest files, etc.) can be either one or two sided. So first: two-sided geometry is bad in most cases.
In order to understand why two sided geometry is bad, we must consider the alternative. The alternative to two-sided geometry is to simply create each triangle twice, with one facing in each direction. We can do this in an OBJ without making new vertices – because vertices are referenced by indices, we only need more indices, and indices are cheap.
Thus we have an alternative to two sided geometry, namely “doubled” one-sided geometry.
The first problem with two sided geometry is performance: for a small number of triangles, it is must faster to simply emit additional indices than to change the drawing mode to two-sided drawing on the CPU.
Thus in an object it is virtually never a good idea to use two-sided geometry. That ATTRibute will always be worse.
What about for the other clutter? Forests are currently always two-sided, but that’s okay; X-Plane enables two sided drawing just once, then draws a huge number of trees. Same with roads. For facades, there is a cost to using two sided geometry, so only use it for facades that must be two sided, like fences; do not use it for buildings.
Now the second problem with two sided geometry is lighting: X-Plane does not calculate lighting values separately for the two sides of the two-sided geometry. So if you have directionally lit models with two sided geometry, the lighting will look wrong. This is the second reason to use doubled geometry instead.
Things Are Starting To Look Up
There is a work-around to this problem of incorrect lighting on two-sided geometry: “up normals”. With up normals, the normal vector for the triangle (which is used to determine how light “bounces” off the triangle) is set to face straight up. The result is a triangle with brightest lighting at high noon, regardless of which way the triangle actually faces.
The good: the triangle looks the same on both sides and has sort of a “flat” lighting – it doesn’t look wrong when the sun is setting. The bad: the triangle has “flat” lighting – it looks non-3d.
We use up normals for forests because the forests are made of two-quad trees…the trees look less fake if directional lighting hints don’t make the two quads as obvious. You can simulate this in ac3d using the “make up normal” command for vegetation quads you put in your own models.
For roads, the geometry is two-sided, so we use up normals to avoid having the back of a road element look funny. Some day we may do something more sophisticated.
Fixing Facade Lighting
Facade lighting behavior will be changed in the next 950 release candidate. Before 950, facades would receive up normals, always. Starting in 950, facades will get correct normals if they are one sided and up normals if they are two-sided. This avoids artifacts with two-sided facades, but will make one-sided closed buildings look much better.
Normal maps in X-Plane 940 have a funny property: if you flip the normal map horizontally or vertically, the bumps change direction. Things that “stuck out” now “stick in” and vice versa. (If you flip the normal map horizontally and vertically, the two cancel out and the normal map is not reversed.)
You can understand this by thinking of your normal map as a physical piece of metal with bumps punched in it. Flipping it horizontally really means rotating it horizontally to see the other side – now you see the back side of the bumps. Same with the vertical flip. Flip both and you have flipped it twice and it’s front-side forward again.
In a move that is either just in the nick of time or dangerously reckless, I have tweaked the normal map shader for 950 RC1 (coming out “real soon”) to detect and “fix” a flipped normal. In 950 rc1 the bumps in your normal map will always point in the same direction as the normal of your mesh, even if your UV map is flipped horizontally or vertically.
What does this mean to you, the modeler? It means that you can now mirror your normal map from the left to the right side of the airplane and the normal map will still have the bumps “sticking out” like you want.
I crammed this into 950 RC 1 because it looks like it’s a useful change that will restore flexibility to authors making highly detailed airplanes. Mirroring a symmetric airplane (which results in a horizontally mirrored normal map) is a pretty common thing to do, and if the text is applied as decals, this can be a big win in texture space savings.
I figured best to get the tweak in here now so people could take advantage of it. Plus, what’s an RC1 without an RC2?